Evernote in the lab

EVERNOTE logoThis summer the lab is using Evernote again as an organizing tool for our work. I upgraded to a premium account on a month-by-month plan to test and see how well it would work, and so far it’s exceeding expectations. We just have a single account for all five research students, with each student maintaining their own notebook within the one account. I like this approach for a community space like a lab because I can keep each computer logged in to the one account and everything’s already there. If they each had their own account, I could imagine students accidentally saving to another user’s account if they sat down at a computer where somebody else had been working.

Each student has a slightly different approach to using it, but they all post their daily activities, experimental plans, timelines, and observations. A couple are collecting primary data in their notebooks. Some attach spreadsheet files with results. Some have uploaded images that they are analyzing. All use it to take notes on the articles they are reading.

Speaking of readings, I also created a notebook for journal articles related to all of the various projects going on. That is the main reason I upgraded, so we could upload and store many PDFs without running into the upload limit. A few of them have found articles on their own and uploaded them, but I’m mostly the one collecting the literature.

Whenever I would come across an important paper in my Papers library, I would hop over the Evernote on the web, create a new note, make an attachment, open the PDF in Finder, and drag it in — a tedious process, to say the least. This would be easier if I logged in to the lab account in the Evernote client on my Mac, but I like to stay logged in to my personal account with that.

Papers application dialog boxAs I was looking over the options in Papers, I remembered I could email notes to Evernote through a private address. I created a contact on my Mac called Lab Evernote, pasted in the private email address for the lab Evernote account, and tried it out — BOOM! it worked. I can even specify the ‘papers’ notebook by adding @papers to the subject line. The PDF becomes fully searchable, too, which makes it easier to find later.

I’ve tried lots of different tools for managing lab groups, including blogs, wikis, Dropbox, and network shared folders. I have to say, Evernote is the best tool I’ve found. I can’t think of any way to do it better.

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